For the first time in a while it’s very clear to see what the plan is at Arsenal.
On the pitch the Gunners have a clear style of play that has been reinforced by some smart summer acquisitions.
Gabriel Jesus has proved to be a massive upgrade on Alexandre Lacazette up front, while Oleksandr Zinchenko has shown himself to be a player capable of matching the unique tactical demands that Mikel Arteta place upon his team.
The Gunners‘ 4-3-3 has proved difficult for most opposition teams to stop so far and as we head towards the final round of fixtures before the international break, they sit top of the Premier League.
For all the talk of clear identity on the pitch, Arsenal’s recent success also owes something to what has been going on off it.
London earlier this year, technical director Edu revealed that the club is in the middle of a long-term project aimed at getting them back to challenging for the top honours both domestically and in Europe.
It centred largely around drastically reducing the age profile of the squad in its first phase.
When Mikel Arteta arrived Arsenal’s dressing room was filled with players over the age of 26 on big contracts as a result of a short-term strategy that had been in to place under Unai Emery focussed on getting them back into the Champions League as soon as possible.
Over the past two summer transfer windows this has changed rapidly though, with players under the age of 25 being brought in, and the club now being focused on younger talents like Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale, to name but a few.
Now that part of the project is largely complete though, the next phase is to move the Gunners into the position where they are able to sell players.
Historically Arsenal have struggled with this aspect of the transfer market, and over the summer just gone, they yet again struggled to recoup too many significant fees for players deemed surplus to requirements.
“Part of the plan is when you are starting to sell the players, that’s the challenging one,” Edu told football.
“You already need someone prepared. sell, [and if] we are able to do that and then, ‘chapeau‘. It’s very challenging.”
Let’s talk about next season or another. If we sell, I don’t know, Bukayo Saka – that’s not going to happen but it’s just an example. If we’re going to sell Bukayo Saka, we as a club have to prepare his replacement straight away. So someone has to be in the squad or we have to manage the market well so if we sell we have him, we have someone straight away to replace him in our model.”
Despite having only given the example of Saka anecdotally, it appears that Edu has already began to put his plan into action when it comes to the right wing position.
As things stand, the 21-year-old is yet to sign a new contract with Arsenal.
Both he and Mikel Arteta have stated that they are confident of getting a deal sorted, but there has still been a delay over an agreement being confirmed.
While it does not appear likely that Saka is set to move any time soon – despite reported interest from Manchester City and Liverpool – Arsenal have already begun preparing for his departure with one of their summer signings.
Marquinhos went slightly under the radar following his arrival from Sao Paolo in the summer, but he has surprised many with how quickly he has taken to life in north London.
The 19-year-old began quickly with the under-21s, scoring three times and grabbing an assist in the space of two games which was enough to convince Arteta to decide to keep him around the first team squad rather than sending him on loan.
The Brazilian was then rewarded with a first senior start for Arsenal in the Europa League against FC Zurich on Thursday where he again impressed, scoring once and grabbing a match winning assist for Eddie Nketiah.
While it’s early days to suggest that Marquinhos will go on to be a success at Arsenal, the fact that they have already got another winger on the conveyor belt if Saka were to leave deserves praise.
It is similar to how Liverpool sought to replace Sadio Mane before the Senegalese winger left to join Bayern Munich over the summer by signing Luis Diaz, a move which Edu himself described as “a very nice plan.”
Again, while there has been no suggestion that Saka will be on his way any time soon, the fact that the next stage of their plan already seems to be in process is exciting as Edu seeks to keep the Gunners in the first placed position they currently find themselves in.
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